food / travel

The Supermarket Is A Jungle - 10 Tips For Survival

"Chewie, make the cart jump to lightspeed"
"Chewie, make the cart jump to lightspeed"
Violetta Simon

MUNICH - It would certainly be nice if all customers were treated well when they shop in supermarkets. But can supermarket employees also expect to be treated with respect? Recently, in a London branch of the UK's Sainsbury's chain, a checkout lady refused to serve a customer because the employee felt ignored — the shopper was talking on her cell phone the whole time she was putting her purchases on the conveyor belt. The cashier did not begin ringing up the items, saying that she would not do so until the customer got off the phone.

According to British press sources, the customer said: "Apologies, I didn’t realize it was Sainsbury’s policy that you are unable to use your phone at the checkout." The operator replied: "Well, you learn something new every day."

How right she was, at least about the learning thing. But what the incident demonstrates is that supermarket shopping can be a very complex enterprise and requires more skills than merely loading your cart and paying. For example, what do you do if you run into your ex or a gossip-addicted neighbor at the cold cuts counter?

The general rule when no others exist is to fall back on manners and common sense. That sounds great, but it doesn’t always work. So just in case, here are some pointers:

1) Waiting in line is a core component of the food shopping experience. Just bear in mind that the front part of your cart wasn’t designed to ram the person ahead of you in the Achilles tendon. Everybody feels a lot better when personal space is respected, which means keeping a minimum of about 50 centimeters — or about 1.64 feet — between you and the next guy. No, really.

2) That said, the space thing doesn’t mean you can use all those openings in checkout lines to sidle in, pretending you thought that’s where the line ended.

3) If the store opens up another checkout counter as you wait in line, don’t try and beat everybody else standing in front of you to it. Wait at least a few seconds to give people ahead of you the chance to make the change, and then take your place behind them. (If you’re lucky, nobody will notice that another checkout opened and you’ll get to be first, after all.)

4) As unpopular as bumper-car line changers are, customers who park their cart in a checkout line and then with a frenzied "Be right back!" go get the rest of their groceries may be even less so. If you're guilty of this, don’t be surprised when you get back if people have pushed your cart off to the side: You deserve it.

5) Some people feel rejected when the person ahead of them places a divider stick on the conveyor belt to separate their groceries. Please accept that using a divider stick is not a declaration of war. In fact, you should be thankful. But not with too much ebullience please.

6) There’s no time for conversation in supermarkets. There's a job to do. For everyone. So please, just carry on.

7) If you simply can’t avoid getting into a conversation with somebody who doesn't know about rule #6, keep it short. Under no circumstances do you want to be accused of being an aisle-blocker.

8) Sure, take that cube of cheese from the friendly lady in the white food handler hat. The nice bread samples at the bakery counter will go nicely with that cheese, and by all means check out the wine section for whatever they’ve got going there. But please, don’t keep repeating the circuit so that the samples add up to a meal.

9) Unpackaged items like fruit or bread should only be touched if you really intend to buy them. Those who insist on testing the ripeness of the nectarines or kiwis by applying pressure to them should at least — for reasons of hygiene — put a little bag over those squeezy fingers first.

10) And finally, another word about the checkout line: It doesn’t matter how many times on the same day, during the same year or your whole life you’ve been asked, it’s still not OK to answer: "No, I don’t have a goddamned customer card!"

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Dutch Cities Have Been Secretly Probing Mosques Since 2013

Revelations of a nationally funded clandestine operation within 10 municipalities in the Netherlands to keep tabs on mosques and Muslim organizations after a rise in radicalization eight years ago.

The Nasser mosque in Veenendaal, one of the mosques reportedly surveilled

Meike Eijsberg

At least ten Dutch towns and cities have secretly used a private agency to probe mosques and other local religious organizations, Amsterdam-based daily het NRC reports in an exclusive investigation.

The clandestine operation — funded by NCTV, the National Security Services, the Netherlands' leading counter-terrorism agency — was prompted by the social unrest and uncertainty following multiple terror attacks in 2013, and a rise in Islamic radicalization.

The NCTV, which advises and financially supports municipalities in countering radicalization, put the municipalities in touch with Nuance by Training and Advice (Nuance door Trainingen en Advies, NTA), a private research agency based in Deventer, Netherlands. Among the institutions targeted by the investigations, which came at a cost of circa 500,000 euros, were the Al Mouahidin mosque in the central Dutch town of Ede, and the Nasser mosque east of the city of Utrecht, according to NRC.

Photo of people standing on prayer mats inside a Dutch mosque

Praying inside a Dutch mosque.


Broken trust in Islamic community

Unlike public officials, the private agency can enter the mosques to clandestinely research the situation. In this case, the agents observed activity, talk to visitors, administrators, and religious leaders, and investigated what they do and say on social media.

All findings then wound up in a secret report which includes personal details about what the administrators and teachers studied, who their relatives are, with whom they argued, and how often they had contact with authorities in foreign countries, like Morocco.

Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed.

It is unclear whether the practice is legal, which is why several members of the Dutch Parliament are now demanding clarification from the outgoing Minister of Justice and Security, Ferd Grapperhaus, who is said to be involved.

"The ease with which the government violates (fundamental) rights when it comes to Islam or Muslims is shocking," Stephan van Baarle, member of the leftist party DENK, told De Volkskrant, another Dutch newspaper.

Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed. Hassan Saidi, director of one of the mosques investigated, said that the relationship with the local municipality had been good. "This puts a huge dent in the trust I'd had in the municipality," he told the Dutch public broadcaster NOS.

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